John-Alex Mason, host of world musicians to play at Old Town Pub tonight
Steamboat Springs — Colorado blues musician John-Alex Mason wanted his latest album, “Jook Joint Thunderclap,” to be a collaborative effort among the musicians involved: one in which each of his chosen colleagues would bring something special to the record from deep within his history.
“It means the world to me that these guys would be interested and excited about what I’m writing and playing,” said Mason, who grew up in Colorado Springs, attending Red Rocks shows and grooving on the music of the Deep South.
“What it comes from is that they honor their ancestors by being themselves, and in their own pursuits,” he said. “Their music and rhythm resonates with other people that are interested in that same pursuit.”
“These guys” who joined in the creation of “Jook Joint Thunderclap” also will be on hand at Mason’s appearance for a “world boogie” event tonight at the Old Town Pub.
The show, which is $5 at the door, is the first of four Colorado release parties for the album, which officially comes out Friday.
The assorted group features some names familiar to Steamboat Springs, such as Guinean djembe players Fara Tolno and Alya Sylla. Tolno has played drumming and dance shows and put on workshops in the Yampa Valley.
In addition, Mason will be joined by Cody Burnside, little brother to drummer Cedric Burnside and grandson of the late R.L. Burnside. Cedric played at Old Town Pub in fall with Lightnin’ Malcom, both of whom appear on “Thunderclap.”
Cody, however, won’t be drumming or playing guitar tonight.
“Flos” are his specialty, and a new twist on the old hill country blues. His rapping adds a percussive, hip-hop element layered over blues and gospel groove elements.
Mason, who plays guitar and slide and sings with a brooding, soulful Colorado inflection, also is joined by Lionel Young, who won the International Blues Challenge as a solo fiddle player in 2008, as well as harmonica player Ronnie Shellist and bassist Todd Edmunds.
To Mason, there was never any question whether the African or hip-hop influences would stick to his roots blues tunes.
“To me, it’s new music and it’s an exploration,” he said. “So often in the blues and folk and other established genres, it’s not about playing what’s been played before. It’s about creating a new sound and style and voice.”
And all of them together, whether Colorado native, hill country soul or African immigrant, bring the energy and rock ’n’ roll to every size of stage.
“It’s like pure, unadulterated mojo,” Mason said about the group’s live shows.
World influences aside, at the end of the day, it all comes down to Colorado for Mason, who has traveled far and wide and has never been disappointed to return to the mountains.
That’s why the opening lyrics on the opening track of “Jook Joint Thunderclap” pay homage to his spiritual and musical home.
“Spread wide/Spread long/Spread out like those Rocky Mountains/My old lonesome home.”
Mason said he’s looking forward to his return to Steamboat after playing several shows in North Routt County in the past.
“It’s home, man,” Mason said about the Colorado mountains. “And it’s incredible to be home. There’s no place like here, and there’s no place like Steamboat, really.”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or e-mail ninglis@SteamboatToday.com
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